Traveling by wheelchair can strike a nerve if you do not plan ahead, conduct research, or consider possible setbacks and delays because of handicap restrictions. For instance, not every hotel or motel has wheelchair accessibility, which may pose problems if traveling alone. Be sure to inquire about wheelchair accessibility while scheduling hotel reservations in order to stave off potential headaches. Those with mobile challenges rely on wheelchair assistance wherever they travel, which includes airline services, boating or cruise accommodations, and other transportation mediums, such as taxis, buses, shuttles, and amusement park rides.
Consider inquiring with these services about possible airlift assistance, elevators, and ramps. Additionally, inquire with these services about medicinal and special equipment restrictions, such as designated areas for defibrillators and oxygen tanks. Finding out this information ahead of time can really save you time and money.
If you're traveling alone in a wheelchair, then make sure you have a maintenance or repair service verify that wheelchair is in good working conditions before departure. The extra effort will eliminate setbacks and delays over broken or repairable parts that will need servicing at the destination upon arrival. Hiring a maintenance or repair service team will save you time and minimize stress while on your trip.
Exercise precaution by placing your name and address onto each of the detachable parts before leaving home. Only display your name when traveling overseas. Additionally, bring a travel size repair kit containing all of the necessary tools and materials needed to change a pneumatic tire. Pneumatic tire repair kits can be found at any major retail chain stores in the bicycle department. Remember that not all international repair shops are identical to the service you're used to receiving at home, so make every effort to eliminate potential problems by acting now.
Cruise operations usually incorporate ferry services to transport passengers to shore from a ship anchored out at sea. These ferry services are not always equipped with lifts or ramps to help the handicap lower their wheelchairs onto the carrier. Ask personnel for assistance in locating any wheelchair accommodations in order to board the ferry and deport for the shore. Depending on the weather, sea, tidal conditions, or technical difficulties, certain restrictions may be in place that limit certain passengers from leaving the cruise tender.
Generally, the crew will guide you to a gangway or use a creepy crawler, a mechanical device designed to “walk” your wheelchair down a flight of stairs, to help the mobile challenged find their way to the shore. Handicap persons will need to transfer to a lightweight, manual wheelchair if originally in an electric wheelchair or scooter in order to allow the crew to successfully move the equipment onto shore. Be sure to alert the crew of any medicinal or special equipment that also needs to be moved alongside your wheelchair or scooter.
Most people believe that airliners accommodate to wheelchair travelers; however, some airline services have neglected taking the extra effort to assure that these services are implemented to minimize potential injuries for those confined to a mobile device. In fact, any airline can pose potential problems for wheelchair travelers, depending on the time and day that the flight departed for its destination. Additionally, the quality of wheelchair assistance relies heavily on the airline staff and airport crew that unloads your equipment and luggage.
Confirm your airline flights with your carrier within 24-48 hours of your departure. Flight times, numbers, and seating arrangements can change on a whim. Notify the airline service team about your disability, the kind of wheelchair you have, and other equipment that will need to be transported upon arrival. Request for a “gate check” in order to load your wheelchair directly to the plane's fuselage. Be sure to remove all leg supports and seat cushions before relinquishing your wheelchair to the airline staff. Carry these items with you onto the airliner. Use special bags to store delicate items in between transitions.
Follow this comprehensive list of resources for tips on traveling with your wheelchair:
- Traveling With Your Wheelchair or Scooter
- Flying Tips for Wheelchair Users
- How to Travel By Air with a Wheelchair
- Air Travel Tips for Wheelchair or Scooter Users
- The Disabled Wheelchair Traveller - Holiday Tips
- Traveling with Your Wheelchair
- Traveling with a Disability or Medical Condition[PDF]
- Tips for Disabled Travelers[PDF]
- TSA: Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions
- 5 Tips for Traveling with a Disability
- Community Living: Traveling with Wheelchairs
- Passengers with Disabilities
- Traveling With A Service Dog